The Holocaust Historiography Project

Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle for Independence

Andrew Montgomery

When one thinks of the Indian independence movement in the 1930s and early 1940s, two figures most readily come to mind: Mahatma Gandhi, the immensely popular and “saintly” frail pacifist, and his highly respected, Fabian Socialist acolyte, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Less familiar to Westerners is Subhas Chandra Bose, a man of comparable stature who admired Gandhi but despaired at his aims and methods, and who became a bitter rival of Nehru. Bose played a very active and prominent role in India’s political life during most of the 1930s. For example, he was twice (1938 and 1939) elected President of the Indian National Congress, the country’s most important political force for freedom from the Raj, or British rule.

While his memory is still held in high esteem in India, in the West Bose is much less revered, largely because of his wartime collaboration with the Axis powers. Both before and during the Second World War, Bose worked tirelessly to secure German and Japanese support in freeing his beloved homeland of foreign rule. During the final two years of the war, Bose — with considerable Japanese backing — led the forces of the Indian National Army into battle against the British.

Ideology of Fusion

As early as 1930 — in his inaugural speech as mayor of Calcutta — the fervent young Bose first expressed his support for a fusion of socialism and fascism:[1]

… I would say we have here in this policy and program a synthesis of what modern Europe calls Socialism and Fascism. We have here the justice, the equality, the love, which is the basis of Socialism, and combined with that we have the efficiency and the discipline of Fascism as it stands in Europe today.

In years that followed, the brilliant, eclectic Bengali would occasionally modify this radical doctrine, but would never abandon it entirely. For example, in late 1944 — almost a decade and a half later — in a speech to students at Tokyo University, he asserted that India must have a political system “of an authoritarian character… To repeat once again, our philosophy should be a synthesis between National Socialism and Communism."[2]

In the wake of the crushing defeat in 1945 of Hitler and Mussolini, “fascism” has arguably been the most despised of all political ideologies. Postwar western society recognizes no fascist heroics, and even considers “fascist” traits — particularly the authoritarian, charismatic, personal style of leadership, and the positive evaluation of violence and the willingness to use it for political purposes — to be decidedly unpalatable. In India, though, Bose is regarded as a national hero, in spite of his repeated praise (as will be shown) for autocratic leadership and authoritarian government, and admiration for the European fascist regimes with which he allied himself.

Like the leaders he admired in Italy and Germany, Bose was (and still is) popularly known as Netaji, or “revered leader.” “His name,” explains Mihir Bose (no relation), one of Subhas' many biographers, “is given [in India] to parks, roads, buildings, sports stadiums, artificial lakes; his statues stand in place of those of discarded British heroes and his photograph adorns thousands of calendars and millions of pan (betel-nut) shops.” It is always the same portrait, continues the writer: Bose in his Indian National Army uniform, “exhorting his countrymen forward to one last glorious struggle."[3]

No less a figure than Gandhi paid tribute to Bose’s remarkable courage and devotion. Six months after his death in an airplane crash on August 18, 1945, Gandhi declared: “The hypnotism of the Indian National Army has cast its spell upon us. Netaji’s name is one to conjure with. His patriotism is second to none… His bravery shines through all his actions. He aimed high and failed. But who has not failed."[4] On another occasion Gandhi eulogized: “Netaji will remain immortal for all time to come for his service to India."[5]

Many of Bose’s admirers have been inclined to downplay or even ignore the fascist elements in his ideology, and even to pretend they never existed. For example, the text of Bose’s inaugural speech as mayor of Calcutta, cited above, was reprinted in a laudatory 1970 “Netaji Birthday Supplement” of the Calcutta Municipal Gazette, but with all references to fascism, including his support for a synthesis of fascism and socialism, carefully deleted.[6] Several admiring biographers have found it easier to ignore the fascist elements in his ideology than to explain them. Their subjective accounts do not even inform the reader that Bose spoke positively about some features of fascism, or else, in an attempt to remove from their hero any possible taint, they qualify his remarks in ways that he himself did not.[7]


During his lifetime, Bose was frequently denounced as a fascist or even a Nazi, particularly in the wake of the radical, revolutionary (as opposed to reformist) views he expressed in radio addresses broadcast to India from National Socialist Germany and, later, from quasi-fascist Japan.[8] For example, The Statesman, a highly influential Calcutta periodical, charged in November 1941: “Mr. Bose’s views are those of the Nazis, and he makes no secret of it,"[9] while the BBC, Britain’s worldwide radio voice, frequently accused him of “Fascism” and “Nazism."[10]

Additionally, historians and writers who do not admire Bose readily point up his “fascist” views. A.M. Nair, a historian who has written favorably of Indian revolutionary Rash Behari Bose (who had sought Japan’s help during and after the First World War), found nothing to praise about Subhas Chandra Bose. After all, wrote Nair, he was clearly a fascist.[11]

Recognized Leadership

Bose, a patriot of almost fanatical zeal, first joined the Indian national movement in 1921, working under C.R. Das, whom he idolized. He was jailed for six months in 1921-1922 because of his political activities. Immediately upon his release, the 25-year-old Bose organized (and presided over) the All-Bengal Young Men’s Conference. As a result of his remarkable leadership abilities and ambition, he advanced quickly through nationalist ranks. He was soon elected General Secretary of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee (BPCC). In 1924, at the age of 27, Bose was elected the Chief Executive Officer of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, which effectively put him in charge of the second-largest city in the British empire. As a result of his close ties with nationalist terrorists, in late 1924 he was detained by British authorities and held, without trial, for three years in prison. In 1928, the 31-year-old Bose was elected president of the BPCC, and, at the Calcutta meeting of the Congress party held that December, he came to national prominence by pressing (unsuccessfully) for the adoption by his provincial committee of an independence resolution.

By 1930 Bose had formulated the broad strategy that he believed India must follow to throw off the yoke of British imperialism and assume its rightful place as a leader in Asia. During his years in Mandalay prison and another short term of imprisonment in Alipore jail in 1930, he read many works on political theory, including Francesco Nitti’s Bolshevism, Fascism and Democracy and Ivanoe Bonomi’s From Socialism to Fascism.[12] It is clear that these works on fascism influenced him, and caused an immediate modification of his long-held socialist views: as noted above, in his inaugural speech as mayor of Calcutta, given a day after his release from Alipore jail, he revealed his support for a seemingly contradictory ideological synthesis of socialism and fascism.

Until his death 15 years later, Bose would continue publicly to praise certain aspects of fascism and express his hope for a synthesis of that ideology and socialism. His detailed comments on the matter in his book The Indian Struggle: 1920-1934, which was first published in 1935, accurately represent the views he held throughout most of his career. As such, the most important of them, along with Bose’s own actions, will be analyzed here in some detail.

Program Outlined

Contending that the Indian National Congress was somewhat “out of date,” and suffered from a lack of unity and strong leadership, Bose predicted in The Indian Struggle that out of a “Left-Wing revolt there will ultimately emerge a new full-fledged party with a clear ideology, program and plan of action."[13] The program and plan of action of this new party would, wrote Bose, follow this basic outline:[14]

  1. The party will stand for the interests of the masses, that is, of the peasants, workers, etc., and not for the vested interests, that is, the landlords, capitalists and money-lending classes.
  2. It will stand for the complete political and economic liberation of the Indian people.
  3. It will stand for a Federal Government for India as the ultimate goal, but will believe in a strong Central Government with dictatorial powers for some years to come, in order to put India on her feet.
  4. It will believe in a sound system of state-planning for the reorganization of the agricultural and industrial life of the country.
  5. It will seek to build up a new social structure on the basis of the village communities of the past, that were ruled by the village “Panch” and will strive to break down the existing social barriers like caste.
  6. It will seek to establish a new monetary and credit system in the light of the theories and the experiments that have been and are current in the modern world.
  7. It will seek to abolish landlordism and introduce a uniform land-tenure system for the whole of India.
  8. It will not stand for a democracy in the Mid-Victorian sense of the term, but will believe in government by a strong party bound together by military discipline, as the only means of holding India together and preventing a chaos, when Indians are free and are thrown entirely on their own resources.
  9. It will not restrict itself to a campaign inside India but will resort to international propaganda also, in order to strengthen India’s case for liberty, and will attempt to utilize the existing international organizations.
  10. It will endeavor to unite all the radical organizations under a national executive so that whenever any action is taken, there will be simultaneous activity on many fronts.


Bose went on to note that Nehru had said in 1933: “I dislike Fascism intensely and indeed I do not think it is anything more than a crude and brutal effort of the present capitalist order to preserve itself at any cost.” There is no middle road between Fascism and Communism, said Nehru, so one “had to choose between the two and I choose the Communist ideal."[15]

To this Bose responded:[16]

The view expressed here is, according to the writer, fundamentally wrong… One is inclined to hold that the next phase in world-history will produce a synthesis between Communism and Fascism. And will it be a surprise if that synthesis in produced in India? …In spite of the antithesis between Communism and Fascism, there are certain traits in common. Both Communism and Fascism believe in the supremacy of the State over the individual. Both denounce parliamentary democracy. Both believe in party rule. Both believe in the dictatorship of the party and in the ruthless suppression of all dissenting minorities. Both believe in a planned industrial reorganization of the country. These common traits will form the basis of the new synthesis. That synthesis is called by the writer “Samyavada” — an Indian word, which means literally “the doctrine of synthesis or equality.” It will be India’s task to work out this synthesis.

Before taking a closer look at these remarkable words, four points need to be made. First, Bose’s fascist model was almost certainly Mussolini’s Italy, not Hitler’s Germany. In 1934 Bose made the first of several visits to Fascist Italy and found both the regime and its leader very agreeable. On that occasion he had a cordial (first) meeting with Mussolini — “a man who really counts in the politics of modern Europe."[17] After The Indian Struggle appeared in print in 1935, Bose made a special stop in Rome personally to present a copy to the Duce.[18]

Second, the book was completed a full year before the commencement of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (Abyssinia), in October 1935. While Bose would, by the time he completed his book, have known about such violent incidents as “The Night of the Long Knives” — the SS killing of dozens of SA men on June 30, 1934 — he had no real reason to consider the European fascist regimes unusually violent, murderous or bellicose. “I should like to point out that when I was writing the book,” he later explained,[19]

Fascism had not started on its imperialistic expedition, and it appeared to me merely an aggressive form of nationalism… What I really meant was that we in India wanted our national freedom, and having won it, we wanted to move in the direction of Socialism. This is what I meant when I referred to a “synthesis between Communism and Fascism.” Perhaps the expression I used was not a happy one.

Third, despite Bose’s claim to represent the political left, and that a party supporting a fusion of fascism and socialism would be ushered in by a “Left-Wing revolt,” the ideology he expounded might more appropriately be regarded as right wing. Bose’s ideology was radical and contained socialist elements — such as the desire to abolish the traditional class structure and create a society of equal opportunity, and the claim to represent the peasants and workers. To that extent it can be considered left wing. It is worth noting that Hitler’s “right wing” political movement — the National Socialist German Workers' Party — shared many of Bose’s “socialist” goals.[20] Nehru, a committed socialist, challenged Bose’s characterization of himself and his followers as left wing: “It seems to me that many of the so-called Leftists are more Right than the so-called Rightists. Strong language and a capacity to attack the old Congress leadership is not a test of Leftism in politics."[21]

Lastly, it should be noted that Bose was willing to tone down his more radical political beliefs on those occasions when he considered it advantageous or necessary to do so. For example, in his February 1938 inaugural speech as President of the Indian National Congress, Bose — probably in a sincere attempt to placate the Gandhian faction — made statements that appear to represent almost an about face from the political views he had expounded in The Indian Struggle. In a future independent India, he said,[22]

the party itself will have a democratic basis, unlike, for instance, the Nazi party which is based on the “leader principle.” The existence of more than one party and the democratic basis of the Congress party will prevent the future Indian State becoming a totalitarian one. Further, the democratic basis of the party will ensure that leaders are not thrust upon the people from above, but are elected from below.

It is possible that these statements reflect a temporary change of mind, but it is more likely that they reflect Bose’s efforts during this period to gain further political respectability, to prove that he was more than just a radical and revolutionary Bengali. By doing so he apparently hoped to win wider acceptance of the policies he wanted to implement in his year as Congress President: policies which were not especially radical or revolutionary.[23] According to Nirad Chaudhuri, his former personal secretary, Bose tried very hard during this period to seek agreement with the Gandhian faction over the direction the Congress party should move, and even “showed something like tender filial piety towards Gandhi,” of whom he had been very critical in The Indian Struggle.[24] It is against this political background that Bose’s statements to the Congress party meeting in February 1938 should be seen.

A year later he successfully recontested the presidential election, but two months afterwards was forced to resign because of his inability to resolve his differences with Gandhi and the Gandhian faction. Probably believing that his earlier suspicions of democracy had been proven correct, and feeling that there was now no use in trying to win the favor or approval of more conservative elements in the Congress party, Bose once again proclaimed his belief in the efficacy of authoritarian government and a synthesis of fascism and socialism. Many similar examples can be cited to show how Bose outwardly (but probably not inwardly) modified his views to suit changing political contexts.

A Life for India

Throughout his political career, India’s liberation from British rule remained Bose’s foremost political goal; indeed, it was a lifelong obsession. As he explained in his most important work, The Indian Struggle, the political party he envisioned “will stand for the complete political and economic liberation of the Indian people.” Speaking of Bose a few days after his death in August 1945, Jawaharlal Nehru said:[25]

In the struggle for the cause of India’s independence he has given his life and has escaped all those troubles which brave soldiers like him have to face in the end. He was not only brave but had deep love for freedom. He believed, rightly or wrongly, that whatever he did was for the independence of India… Although I personally did not agree with him in many respects, and he left us and formed the Forward Bloc, nobody can doubt his sincerity. He struggled throughout his life for the independence of India, in his own way.

Along with his abiding love for his country, Bose held an equally passionate hatred of the imperial power that ruled it: Great Britain. In a radio address broadcast from Berlin on March 1, 1943, he exclaimed that Britain’s demise was near, and predicted that it would be “India’s privilege to end that Satanic empire."[26] The fundamental principle of his foreign policy, Bose declared in a May 1945 speech in Bangkok, is that “Britain’s enemy is India’s friend."[27] Although these two speeches are from his final years, they express views he had held since before his April 1921 resignation from the Indian Civil Service.[28] It was this principle of making friends with Britain’s enemies in the hope that they would assist him in liberating India that brought him in 1941 to Germany and then, in 1943, to Japan.

Violence or Non-Violence?

Bose envisaged that “the complete political and economic liberation of the Indian people” would inevitably require the use of force. Just before resigning from the Indian Civil Service, he discussed with Dilip Kumar Roy, his closest friend, the subject of anti-British terrorism. “I admit is it regrettable,” he said, “even ugly if you will, though it also has a terrible beauty of its own. But maybe that beauty does not unveil her face except for her devotees."[29]

Violence was not new to Bose, even at that early stage of his career. In 1916 he had been expelled from Presidency College in Calcutta for his part in the violent assault on Professor Edward Oaten, who had allegedly insulted Indian students.[30] Moreover, although he occasionally claimed to “detest” violence,[31] and criticized isolated acts of terrorism (which he considered ineffective and counterproductive),[32] he was never really committed to Gandhi’s policy of non-violence.[33] He regarded the Gandhi-supported civil disobedience campaign as an effective means of paralyzing the administration, but regarded it as inadequate unless accompanied by a movement aimed at total revolution and prepared, if necessary, to use violence.[34]


Related to Bose’s willingness to use violence to gain political objective was his belief — expressed in The Indian Struggle, for example — that a government by a strong party should be “bound together by military discipline.” Indeed Bose was infatuated with military discipline, and later commented that his basic training in the University Unit of the India Defence Force (for which he volunteered in 1917, while a student at Scottish Church College in Calcutta) “gave me something which I needed or which I lacked. The feeling of strength and of self-confidence grew still further."[35]

Bose was able to give much grander expression to his “militarism” when, in 1930, he volunteered to form a guard of honor during the ceremonial functions at the Calcutta session of the Congress party. Such guards of honor were not uncommon, but the one Bose formed and commanded was unlike anything previously seen. More than 2,000 volunteers were given military training and organized into battalions. About half wore uniforms, with specially designed steel-chain epaulettes for the officers. Bose, in full dress uniform (peaked cap, standing collar, ornamental breast cords, and jodhpurs) even carried a Field Marshal’s baton when he reviewed his “troops.” Photographs taken at the conference show him looking entirely out of place in a sea of khadi (traditional Indian clothing). Gandhi and several other champions of Non-violence (Ahimsa) were uncomfortable with this display.[36]

The Indian National Army

A high point in Bose’s “military career” came in July 1943 in Singapore. At a mass meeting there on July 4, Rash Behari Bose (no relation) handed over to him the leadership of the Indian Independence League. The next day, Subhas Bose reviewed for the first time the soldiers of the Indian National Army (INA), which then comprised 13,000 men. In his address to the troops, which is a good example of his speaking style, he cited George Washington and Giuseppi Garibaldi as examples of men who led armies that won independence for their respective countries. Bose went on:[37]

Soldiers of India’s army of liberation!…

Every Indian must feel proud that this Army — his own Army — has been organized entirely under Indian leadership and that, when the historic moment arrives, under Indian leadership it will go to battle …

Comrades! You have voluntarily accepted a mission that is the noblest that the human mind can conceive of. For the fulfillment of such a mission, no sacrifice is too great, not even the sacrifice of one’s life …

… Today is the proudest day of my life. For an enslaved people, there can be no greater pride, no higher honor, than to be the first soldier in the army of liberation. But this honor carries with it a corresponding responsibility, and I am deeply conscious of it. I assure you that I shall be with you in darkness and in sunshine, in sorrow and in joy, in suffering and in victory. For the present, I can offer you nothing except hunger, thirst, privation, forced marches and death. But if you follow me in life and in death, as I am confident you will, I shall lead you to victory and freedom. It does not matter who among us will live to see India free. It is enough that India shall be free, and that we shall give our all to make her free.

May God now bless our Army and grant us victory in the coming fight!

This “Free India Army” ("Azad Hind Fauj") would not only “emancipate India from the British yoke,” he told the soldiers, but would, under his command, become the standing national army of the liberated nation.

Choreography for Impact

As his staging at the 1930 Calcutta session of the Congress party suggests, Bose understood early on the importance of political choreography and the aesthetics of mass meetings. After his visits to Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany, he was even more mindful of the importance for any successful broad-based political movement of mass meetings, marches, visual symbols, and ceremonial or liturgical rituals. For example, at the 51st session of the Congress party at Haripura in 1938, Bose made sure that his entrance as the new Congress President would be spectacular. Escorted by 51 girls in saffron saris (the number corresponding with the number of the Congress session), he was seated in an ancient chariot drawn by 51 white bullocks, and taken on a two hour procession through 51 specially-constructed gates, accompanied by 51 brass bands.[38] Political choreography of this type — although not to this extreme degree — was very evident at all mass rallies (which sometimes attracted crowds numbering as many as 200,000) of the Forward Bloc party that Bose formed in 1939. Carefully chosen symbols, slogans and songs, coupled with a flood of written propaganda, were used in an unsuccessful attempt to make the Forward Bloc into a mass party.[39]

Even during the last years of the war, when he was in southeast Asia heading the Provisional Government of Free India and the INA, he continued to choreograph carefully all of his rallies, meetings and ceremonies, in order to maximize their impact. He also realized that his own role in this choreography was central. Even in the hottest tropical weather, for instance, he wore an imposing military uniform, including forage cap, khaki tunic and jodhpurs, and shiny, knee-length black boots. Moreover, whenever he travelled “he demanded all the rights and privileges of a head of state. On his road travels in Malaya, for example, he insisted on a full ceremonial escort; Japanese military jeeps mounted with sub-machine guns, a fleet of cars, and motorcycle outriders."[40] Historian Mihir Bose argues persuasively that such carefully planned actions were manifestations not of megalomania, but rather of Subhas Bose’s effort to create a sense of unity transcending class, caste and origin among the large and diverse populations of Indians in Southeast Asia, to increase their political awareness, to arouse and inspire both them and his INA troops, and to show the world that he regarded himself as a political leader of substance and importance.[41]

This naturally raises the question of Bose’s leadership style. In the passage from The Indian Struggle quoted above at length, he expressed his belief in what he called “the dictatorship of the party” (the party being the governing body of a free India), but he did not specify the precise nature of the party’s leadership, or whether it, too, would be dictatorial. Most importantly, he did not state whether he saw himself as the party leader, or comment directly on what role he intended for himself in a free India. Nonetheless, clues about these details can be gleaned from other sections of The Indian Struggle and from the speeches and statements Bose made at various times throughout his career.

Determined Leadership

Bose clearly admired strong, vigorous, military-type leaders, and in The Indian Struggle he listed several whom he particularly respected. These included Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and even a former British governor of Bengal, Sir Stanley Jackson.[42] Nowhere in this book is there any criticism of these individuals (three of them dictators) for having too much power, yet another man is chastised for this: Mahatma Gandhi. Bose admired Gandhi for many things, not least his ability to “exploit the mass psychology of the people, just as Lenin did the same thing in Russia, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany."[43] But he accused Gandhi of accepting too much power and responsibility, of becoming a “Dictator for the whole country” who issued “decrees” to the Congress.[44] According to Bose, Gandhi was a brilliant and gifted man, but, unlike Mussolini, Hitler and the others mentioned, a very ineffectual leader. Gandhi had failed to liberate India because of his frequent indecision and constant willingness to compromise with the Raj (something Bose said he would never do).[45]

It is clear that Bose — who believed from his youth that he was destined for greatness[46] — saw himself as a “strong” leader in the mold of those named above. “I ask those who have any doubts or suspicions in their minds to rely on me,” he told the Indian Independence League Conference in Singapore on July 4, 1943. He continued:[47]

I shall always be loyal to India alone. I will never deceive my motherland. I will live and die for India… The British could not bring me to submission by inflicting hardships on me. British statesmen could neither induce me nor deceive me. There is no one who can divert me from the right path.

Bose was decisive, aggressive and ambitious, and even as a university student, these features of his personality attracted many devoted followers. Dilip Kumar Roy, his companion during his days as a student at Cambridge, referred to him as “strength-inspiring,” and the absolute leader of the Indian student population.[48]

Bose’s militarism, ambition and leadership traits do not necessarily indicate (contrary to popular opinion) that he was a leader in the fascist mold. If they did, one would have to consider all personalities with similar traits — Winston Churchill, for example — as “fascist.” In this regard, it is worth noting that during his many years as head of various councils, committees and offices, and during 15-month tenure as President of the Indian National Congress (February 1938 to May 1939), Bose never acted in an undemocratic manner, nor did he claim powers or responsibilities to which he was not constitutionally or customarily entitled. Neither did he attempt in any way to foster a cult of his own personality (as, it could be argued, Gandhi did).

However, after he assumed control of the INA in July-August 1943, Bose’s leadership style underwent a transformation. First, he allowed a cult of his personality to flourish among the two million or so Indians living in southeast Asia. Prayers were regularly said on his behalf, and his birthday celebrations were — like Gandhi’s in India — major festivals.[49] He was invincible, according to one Indian myth from this period, and could not be harmed by bombs or bullets.[50] An image of Bose that stressed his strength of character, military prowess, and willingness to sacrifice for a free India was intentionally promoted in propaganda broadcasts and printed material. With his approval, the title Netaji ("Revered Leader") was added to his name in all articles about him appearing in the newspapers of the Indian Independence League; even his staff officers were permitted to address him with this title.[51] By the end of the war, few Indians in south Asia still referred to him by name; he was always respectfully called Netaji.[52]

Authoritarian Rule

Second, in contrast to his statement at the 1938 Haripura session of the Congress party (quoted above) — that leaders would be elected from below — Bose proclaimed, on October 21, 1943, the formation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind ("Free India"). While retaining his post as Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army, he announced that he was naming himself Head of State, Prime Minister, and Minister for War and Foreign Affairs.[53] (The most important of these positions — Head of State — he anticipated retaining in a free India.) These appointments involved no democratic process or voting of any kind. Further, the authority he exercised in these posts was dictatorial and often very harsh. He demanded total obedience and loyalty from the Indians in south Asia, and any who opposed him, his army or government faced imprisonment, torture, or even execution.[54]

Additionally, if wealthy Indians did not contribute sufficient funds to Bose’s efforts, they risked confiscation of their property. Bose’s threats were taken very seriously, and had the desired effect: funds did pour in.[55] His INA troops were obliged to swear an oath of loyalty to both the Provisional Government and to him personally. He ordered the summary execution of all INA deserters, and also prepared (but was never able to implement) law codes for the entire population of India. These laws, which stipulated the death penalty for a range of offenses, were to come into force when the INA, together with the Japanese Army, entered India to fight against the British.[56]

With regard to his leadership style during this 1943-1945 period, in fairness to Bose it should be pointed out that the entire world was then engulfed in a horrendous war, and political and military leaders everywhere, on all sides, adapted extraordinarily authoritarian and repressive measures. Some of the measures and policies adapted by the wartime government of the United States, for instance, were as oppressive and as severe as any planned or implemented by Bose.[57]

A New India

Bose clearly anticipated that the British would be driven out of India in an armed struggle (under his leadership),[58] and that a social and political revolution would begin the moment the Indian people saw British rule under attack in India itself.[59] This revolution, he believed, would bring an end to the old caste system and traditional social hierarchy, which would be replaced by an egalitarian, casteless and classless society based on socialist models. This process would require very careful guidance, with a firm hand, to prevent anarchy and chaos.[60]

Bose had, in fact, held these beliefs since the early 1930s, as Mrs. Kitty Kurti, a close German friend of Bose, revealed in her anecdotal memoir. At a June 1933 meeting attended by Kurti, Bose explained that:[61]

Besides a plan of action which will lead up to the conquest of power, we shall require a program for the new state when it comes into existence in India. Nothing can be left to chance. The group of men and women who will assume the leadership of the fight with Great Britain will also have to take up the task of controlling, guiding and developing the new state and, through the state, the entire Indian people. If our leaders are not trained for post-war leadership also there is every possibility that after the conquest of power a period of chaos will set in and incidents similar to those for the French Revolution of the 18th century may be repeated in India… The generals of the war-time period in India will have to carry through the whole program of post-war reforms in order to justify to their countrymen the hopes and aspirations that they will have to rouse during the fight. The task of these leaders will not be over till a new generation of men and women are educated and trained after the establishment of the new state and this new generation are able to take complete charge of their country’s affairs.

This explains what Bose meant in The Indian Struggle when he wrote (as quoted above) of the need for a strong, single-party government, “bound together by military discipline” with “dictatorial powers for some years to come, in order to put India on her feet.” Only an very strong government, strict discipline, and dictatorial rule would, according to Bose, prevent the anticipated revolution from falling into chaos and anarchy. That is why the government would not — “in the first years after liberation” — “stand for a democracy in the Mid-Victorian sense of the term.” It would use whatever military force was necessary to maintain law and order, and would not relinquish authority or re-establish more regular forms of government until it felt confident that “the work of post-war social reconstruction” had been completed and “a new generation of men and women in India, fully trained and equipped for the battle of life” had emerged.[62]

Bose clearly anticipated that authoritarian rule would not last beyond the period when social reconstruction was completed, and law and order were established — when India was “on its feet,” as he often wrote. As he frequently stated, Bose aimed for nothing less than the formation of “a new India and a happy India on the basis of the eternal principles of liberty, democracy and socialism."[63] He rejected Communism (at least as it was practiced in the Soviet Union) principally because of its internationalism, and because he believed that the theoretical ideal found in the writings of Marx could not be applied, without modification, to India. Still, he maintained socialist views throughout his adult life, and, on very many occasions, expressed his hope for an egalitarian (especially classless and casteless) industrialized society in which the state would control the basic means of production.[64]

He was opposed to liberalism, believing that greater emphasis should be placed on social goals than on the needs or desires of individuals. Individual wishes, he reasoned, must be subordinated to the needs of the state, especially during the struggle for independence and the period of reconstruction immediately following liberation. Nonetheless, having himself been imprisoned eleven times and sent into exile three times, he was fully committed to upholding the rights of minority intellectual, religious, cultural and racial groups. He hoped for an “all-round freedom for the Indian people — that is, for social, economic and political freedom, and would wage a relentless war against bondage of every kind till the people can become really free."[65]

It could be argued that he was not as committed to the principle of democracy as he was to socialism and freedom (as he defined it). While he extoled democracy on numerous occasions, at other times his words suggest a belief that other parties would have a place, in a free India, only as long as they were “working towards the same end, in whole or in part,” as his governing party.[66] Political pluralism did not appeal to him at all. He seems to have envisioned a free India that was more authoritarian than democratic. His own actions as head of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind illustrate a lack of regard for the democratic process.

Mass Mobilization

Bose was, nonetheless, a consistent advocate of total mobilization: the mustering of national resources on a scale normally associated with military-like action. Realizing that manpower was easily India’s greatest resource (and arguably the only one available to the independence movement), he proclaimed that all Indians — male and female, urban and rural, rich and poor — should actively participate in the fight for freedom. From his earliest days in politics to his death in 1945, he sought to rouse the great Indian masses, and involve them directly in the political struggle. Their support for representatives at the provincial or national levels was not enough; they must themselves rise up and win independence.

During the 1930s, however, his political position was never strong enough to call for other resources than manpower, nor was India — under British control — able to offer other resources. Additionally, total mobilization during peace-time, without an impending war or revolution in the awareness of the masses, had never been achieved (not even by the Nazis) and, arguably, never could be achieved. Bose, an astute man, no doubt realized this. With the formation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, he was at last in a position to appeal directly for total mobilization to the mass of Indians — at least in Southeast Asia, and, less directly, to those in India itself. Along with his call for mass mobilization, he demanded that all available resources be provided for the cause of freedom. For example, he told a mass meeting in Singapore in July 9, 1943:[67]

Friends! You will now realize that the time has come for the three million Indians living in East Asia to mobilize all their available resources, including money and man-power. Half-hearted measures will not do. I want Total Mobilization and nothing less, for we have been told repeatedly, even by our enemies, that this is a total war… Out of this total mobilization I expect at least three hundred thousand soldiers and three crores of dollars [$30,000,000]. I want also a unit of brave women to form a death-defying regiment who will wield the sword which the brave Rani of Jhansi wielded …

Of course, Bose demanded not only the total mobilization of Indian resources in south Asia, but of Indian resources everywhere.[68] He called for mass mobilization not only in support of his army, but also for his dynamic new government, the various branches of which required financing and manpower.

Women’s Equality

As can be seen from the passage quoted above, Bose called on both men and women for total support. Unlike the German National Socialists and the Italian Fascists, who stressed the masculine in almost all spheres of social and political activity, Bose believed that women were the equals of men, and should therefore be likewise prepared to fight and sacrifice for India’s liberation. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s he had campaigned in India to bring women more fully into the life of the nation.[69] After his return to Asia in 1943, he called on women to serve as soldiers in the Indian National Army — at the time a most radical view. “When I express my confidence that you are today prepared to fight and suffer for the sake of your motherland,” he told the women’s section of the Independence League in July 1943,[70]

I do not mean only to cajole you with empty words. I know the capabilities of our womanhood well. I can, therefore, say with certainty that there is no task which our women cannot undertake and no sacrifice and suffering which our women cannot undergo… To those who say that it will not be proper for our women to carry guns, my only request is that they look into the pages of our history. What brave deeds the Rani of Jhansi performed during the First War of Independence in 1857…Indians — both common people and members of the British Indian army — who are on the border areas of India, will, on seeing you march with guns on your shoulders, voluntarily come forward to receive the guns from you and carry on the struggle started by you.

A women’s regiment was formed in 1943, and came to number about 1,000 women. It was named, appropriately, the “Rani of Jhansi Regiment,” after a heroine of the Indian rebellion of 1857-58 against British rule. While those less suited to combat duties were employed as nurses and in other support roles, the majority were trained as soldiers. When the INA attacked British forces from Burma in east India in mid-1944, the women of the Jhansi Regiment fought alongside the men, suffering equally heavy casualties. When the army was forced to withdraw, the women were given no privileges. Along with the men, they marched for more than a thousand kilometers.[71]

Commitment to Youth

Lastly, Bose was also deeply committed to the youth movement, a devotion that featured prominently in his political ideology. Convinced that young people were by nature idealistic, restless and open to new ideas[72] — such his own radical and militant outlook — Bose accordingly devoted a great deal of time and effort to the new Youth Leagues that were formed in a number of provinces during the 1920s. Throughout his career he presided over far more youth conferences than any other all-India political figure, and his speeches to younger people he steadfastly urged a spirit of activism that contrasted sharply with the passivism preached by Gandhi and many of the older politicians. “One of the most hopeful signs of the time,” he claimed at the 1928 Maharashtra Provincial Conference,[73]

is the awakening among the youth of this country… Friends! I would implore you to assist in the awakening of youth and in the organization of the youth movement. Self-conscious youth will not only act, but will also dream; will not only destroy, but will also build. It will succeed where even you may fail; it will create for you a new India — and a free India --out of the failures, trials and experiences of the past.

India’s liberation would be achieved not by Gandhi and the leading politicians of his generation, whose conservative, reformist policies bred passivity and inactivity. It would, Bose believed, be achieved only through the efforts and sacrifices of the militant, revolutionary and politically conscious younger generation.

Economic Views

In contrast to the copious record of Bose’s political ideology and actions, much less is available about other important elements of his outlook, such as his economic views and policies. For example, while he condemned capitalism and extoled socialism in the pages of The Indian Struggle, Bose was very vague about just what monetary or credit systems he foresaw in a free India. They would be set up, he simply wrote, “in the light of the theories and the experiments that have been and are current in the modern world.” Throughout his career he never wrote or said anything more specific about such matters. He appears to have had no precise ideas about political economy, save that economics was not important in itself but must be subordinated to national political considerations. Any discussion here of what economic systems he favored, and when and how he intended to implement them, would thus be merely speculative.

Unique Political Ideology

While Bose’s political ideology can reasonably be described as essentially “fascistic,” two qualifying points need to be made here.

First, his ideology and actions were not the result of any extreme neurotic or pathological psychosocial impulses. He was not a megalomaniac, nor did he display any of the pathological traits often attributed (rightly or wrongly) to fascist leaders, such as hostile aggression, obsessive hatred or delusions. Moreover, while he was an ardent patriot and nationalist, Bose’s nationalism was cultural, not racialist.

Second, his radical political ideology was shaped by a consuming frustration with the unsuccessful efforts of others to gain independence for India. His “fascist” outlook did not come from a drive for personal power or social elevation. While he was ambitious, and clearly enjoyed the devotion of his followers, his obsession was not adulation or power, but rather freedom for his beloved Motherland — a goal for which he was willing to suffer and sacrifice, even at the cost of his life.

Bose was favorably impressed with the discipline and organizational strength of fascism as early as 1930, when he first expressed support for a synthesis of fascism and socialism. During his stays in Europe during the 1930s, he was deeply moved by the dynamism of the two major “fascist” powers, Italy and Germany. After observing these regimes first-hand, he developed a political ideology of his own that, he was convinced, could bring about the liberation of India and the total reconstruction of Indian society along vaguely authoritarian-socialist lines.

Bose’s lack of success in his life-long effort to liberate India from alien rule was certainly not due to any lack of effort. From 1921, when he became the first Indian to resign formally from the Indian Civil Service, until his death in 1945 as leader of an Indian government in exile, Subhas Chandra Bose struggled ceaselessly to achieve freedom and prosperity for his beloved homeland.


  1. From Bose’s inaugural speech of Sept. 24, 1930. Quoted in: Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj: A Biography of Indian Nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose (New York: 1990), p. 234.
  2. Speech of November 22, 1944, in S.C. Bose, Fundamental Questions of Indian Revolution (Calcutta: Netaji Research Bureau, 1970), pp. 403-4.
  3. Mihir Bose, The Lost Hero: A Biography of Subhas Chandra Bose (London/Melbourne/New York: Quartet Books, 1982), p. x.
  4. Harijan, Feb. 24, 1946, in Mohandas K. Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Ahmedabad: The Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, Navajivan Trust, 1972-78), Volume LXXXIII, p. 135. Gandhi wrote in the present tense, because at the time he still felt that Bose was alive, but hiding somewhere so that he could appear at the right moment. (See: Speech at Prayer Meeting, Jan. 10, 1946, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume LXXXII, p. 391.).
  5. Talk with Deb Nath Das, Feb. 25, 1947, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume LXXXVII, p. 19.
  6. Calcutta Municipal Gazette, Jan. 24, 1970. Cited in: M. Bose, The Lost Hero (1982), p. 277, n. 76
  7. See: T. Hayashida, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: His Great Struggle and Martyrdom (Bombay: Allied Publishers, 1970); K.P. Chaudhuri, Netaji and India (Shillong: Kali Prasanna Chaudhuri, 1956).
  8. Japan’s political system from the early-1930s to mid-1940s can be considered ideologically fascist, following as it did the theories of Kita Ikka, the leading radical nationalist ideologue. In practice, though, it was not truly fascist. No political movement arose to seize power, and formal Japanese constitutional and institutional authority remained essentially intact. Further, parliamentary pluralism continued to exist, and elections continued to take place.
  9. The Statesman (Calcutta), Nov. 19, 1941. Quoted in: L.A. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj: (1990), p. 454.
  10. Bose believed that the BBC attacks ("the cheap method of British propaganda") were directed more against Free India Radio than against himself. He responded to BBC accusations by “reminding” listeners that “Free India Radio is the voice of freedom-loving India. It is the harbinger of the revolution which is fast approaching and which will soon strike a death blow at British power in India.” From a “Free India Radio” broadcast of March 5, 1942, quoted in George Orwell [Eric Blair], Orwell: The War Commentaries, Edited with an introduction by W.J. West (London: Duckworth and the British Broadcasting Corporation, 1985), p. 222.
    From 1941 to 1943, George Orwell worked as a Talks Producer in the Indian Section of the BBC Eastern Service. He saw Bose as his principal foe in the war of propaganda and, while he chose not to mention him by name (thus denying him and his cause publicity), many of his broadcasts were made in direct response to those of Bose. See: George Orwell [Eric Blair], Orwell: The War Broadcasts, Edited with an introduction by W.J. West (London: Duckworth and the BBC, 1985), p. 14. These two volumes contain numerous references to Bose, as well as transcripts of many of his key radio broadcasts from Berlin.
  11. A.M. Nair, An Indian Freedom Fighter in Japan (Bombay: Orient Longman, 1983), p. 250.
  12. L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, p. 235. Both Nitti and Bonomi were former Italian prime ministers, and both were critical of Mussolini’s fascist regime. In both books, however, fascism was grudgingly praised for successfully reducing industrial and inter-class strife, and restoring order, discipline and patriotic sentiment. We know that Bose was reading these books in Alipore Jail in 1930, as he wrote on the inside cover of each, next to his signature, “Alipore Jail, 1930.”
  13. S.C. Bose, The Indian Struggle 1920-1942, Compiled by the Netaji Research Bureau (Bombay and other centers: Asia Publishing House, 1964), p. 312. In this edition a collection of letters, speeches and other documents covering the years 1935 to 1940 has been added. Hence the slight change in the title, as compared with the title when the work was first published in 1935.
  14. S.C. Bose, The Indian Struggle (1964), pp. 312, 313. Text also given in: Hari Hara Das, Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Movement (New Delhi: 1983), pp. 189-190.
  15. S.C. Bose, The Indian Struggle (1964), p. 313.
  16. S.C. Bose, The Indian Struggle (1964), pp. 313, 314.
  17. S.C. Bose, The Indian Struggle (1964), p. 231.; L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, pp. 278, 294 (and p. 690, n. 156).
  18. L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, p. 294.
  19. Report of an interview with R. Palme Dutt, which appeared in the Daily Worker (London), Jan. 24, 1938, Republished in S.C. Bose, The Indian Struggle (1964), pp. 392-394. If authentic, Bose’s statements in this interview constitute, to the present writer’s knowledge, his only attempt to excuse his positive statements about fascism.
  20. Without wishing to draw a parallel between the moral values, personalities and actions of the two men, it is worth pointing out that in Mein Kampf Hitler espoused a political ideology that was very similar (with the obvious exception of anti-Semitism and one or two less-central elements) to that espoused by Bose in The Indian Struggle: fervent nationalism and full social-political mobilization, coupled with non-Marxist socialism and authoritarian leadership. See: A. Hitler, Mein Kampf (Munich: F. Eher, Nachf. [Zentralverlag der NSDAP], 1943 [Zwei Bände in einem Band. Ungekürzte Ausgabe]), pp. 409-517.
    Bose had, unlike most prominent politicians in the prewar period, studied Mein Kampf in some detail. Although he complained in 1936 of the Nazis' “selfishness and racial arrogance,” he informed Hitler during their meeting in May 1942 that apart from his comments in Chapter 26 on the subject of Indian independence, he found Mein Kampf “most agreeable.” See: Letter to Dr. Thierfelder, March 25, 1936, in Sisir K. Bose, et al., eds., A Beacon Across Asia: A Biography of Subhas Chandra Bose (1973), pp. 258-260.; The Bose-Hitler discussion is treated in this same book, esp. pp. 356, 357, 362.
  21. Letter to S. C. Bose, Feb. 4, 1939, in Jawaharlal Nehru, A Bunch of Old Letters (London: Asia Publishing House, 1958 [1960 ed.]), p. 318. In this same book, see also Nehru’s letter of April 3, 1939, to Bose, esp. pp. 356, 357, 362.
  22. Presidential address at the 51st session of the Congress at Haripura, Feb. 19, 1938, in Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose (Delhi: 1962), p. 80. Several authors — such as Sisir Bose and Biduyt Chakrabarty — keen to present Bose in a favorable light, have mistakenly cited this speech as evidence that he had lost faith in fascism. Chakrabarty claimed, for example, that Bose “criticized strongly the Leadership Principle of the fascists as it eroded democracy from the party” and that his speech was a sign of his “growing disillusionment with fascism.” See: B. Chakrabarty, Subhas Chandra Bose and Middle Class Radicalism: A Study in Indian Nationalism, 1928-1940 (London/New York: I.B. Taurus, in association with The London School of Economics & Political Science, 1990), p. 37.
    However, the only part of the speech that even mentioned fascism or the Leadership Principle is that quoted in the main body of this essay. It can hardly be considered a strong criticism either of fascism or of the Leadership Principle, especially in the light of the indelicate language sometimes used in public by Bose to strongly criticize other ideologies or regimes. Moreover, he continued to praise elements of Italian Fascism and National Socialism for many more years, as can be seen, for example, in the speech cited above in note 2.
  23. Perhaps the most radical component of Bose’s policy or program in the period from late 1937 to mid-1938 was his advocacy of an early resumption of the national struggle for independence, to be preceded by an ultimatum to the British government. Additionally, and much to the chagrin of Gandhi (who was opposed to industrialization), Bose launched a National Planning Committee (with Jawaharlal Nehru as Chairman and himself as Convener) for drawing up a comprehensive plan of industrialization and national development. See: S.C. Bose, “Forward Bloc: Its Justification,” in The Indian Struggle, pp. 395-414.
  24. Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Thy Hand, Great Anarch!: India 1921-1952 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1987), p. 500.
  25. Speech at Abbottabad, August 24, 1945, in J. Nehru, Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (A Project of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund; New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1979), volume 14, p. 336;
    See also Nehru’s statement in The Hindu, January 17, 1946, in Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, p. 371: “Netaji Subhas has set an example of courage and passionate devotion to the cause of Indian freedom, which will live long in India’s history.”
    Bose’s close friend, Dilip Kumar Roy, more eloquently wrote: “he died dreaming not of his family or defeats, nor even of the clouds that so often blurred his vision, but of the sun he had dreamed of from his boyhood, of faith and courage that would free his great Goddess — his Motherland.” D. K. Roy, The Subhash I Knew (Bombay: Nalanda Publications, 1946), p. 75.
  26. Quoted in: Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, p. 157.
  27. Speech at Bangkok, May 21, 1945. Quoted in: Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, p. 228.
  28. See: Letter to his brother, Sarat Chandra Bose, April 23, 1921, in Netaji: Collected Works (Calcutta: Netaji Research Bureau, 1980/81 [in 3 volumes]), Volume 1, pp. 230-236.
  29. D. K. Roy, The Subhash I Knew, p. 199. Quoted in: M. Bose, The Lost Hero, p. 48.
  30. Years later, in An Indian Pilgrim, Bose claimed that he had merely been an “eyewitness” to the assault on the elderly Englishman, who was “beaten black and blue.” (Netaji: Collected Works, Volume 1, p. 77). At the time, however, the College Committee was convinced that not only had he masterminded the attack, but that he had participated in it, something he never publicly admitted. In the above-cited letter of April 23, 1921, though, he made a confession of sorts when he said that “If I had stood up before James [the Principal] in 1916 and admitted that I had assaulted Oaten, I would have been a better and truer man.”
  31. See: L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, p. 259.
  32. See: L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, p. 253.
  33. As can be seen, for example, in his comments in The Indian Struggle (p. 114): “After all, what has brought about India’s downfall in the material and political sphere? It is her inordinate belief in fate and in the supernatural — her indifference to modern scientific development — her backwardness in the science of modern warfare, the peaceful contentment engendered by her latter-day philosophy and adherence to Ahimsa (non-violence) carried to the most absurd length.” (Also quoted in: L. Gordon, Brothers, p. 287.)
  34. See Bose’s anti-Ahimsa “1933 London Address,” in S.C. Bose, Fundamental Question of India’s Revolution, pp. 1-31. See also the Bose-Patel Manifesto of May 9, 1933, part of which reads: “a new party will have to be formed within the Congress, composed of all radical elements. Non-cooperation cannot be given up but the form of non-cooperation will have to be changed into a more militant one, and the fight for freedom to be waged in all fronts.” Reproduced in The Indian Struggle, p. 357. Although written in 1943, when Bose was actively seeking Axis assistance against the British, his comments in “India Since 1857 — A Bird’s Eye View” make this point very clearly: “While passive resistance can hold up or paralyze a foreign administration — it cannot overthrow or expel it, without the use of physical force… The last stage will come when active resistance will develop into an armed revolution. Then will come the end of British rule in India.” Published in The Indian Struggle, p. 322.
  35. S.C. Bose, An Indian Pilgrim, in Netaji: Collected Works, Volume 1, p. 92. Dilip Kumar Roy noted that even as a student Bose was infatuated with the military, and that “somehow he used, often enough, to cull his phrases from the military dictionary.” (D. K. Roy, The Subhash I Knew, p. 50).
  36. Nirad Chaudhuri, an associate of Bose, later recalled:
    “Bose designated himself as its General-Officer-Commanding — G.O.C. for short — and his uniform was made by a firm of British tailors in Calcutta, Harman's. A telegram addressed to him as G.O.C. was delivered to the British General in Fort William, and this was the subject of a good deal of malicious comment in the Anglo-Indian press. Mahatma Gandhi, being a sincere pacifist [and] vowed to non-violence, did not like the strutting, clicking of boots and saluting, and he afterwards described the Calcutta session of the Congress as a Bertram Mills circus, which caused great indignation among the Bengalis.” (Source: Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Continent of Circe, p. 114. Quoted in Mihir Bose, The Lost Hero, pp. 65-66.)

    “Subhas Bose took this job seriously,” writes Leonard Gordon. “The volunteers were to be well trained and to march in disciplined formation on ceremonial occasions…He rode — on a brown horse — in front of his unarmed troops, thinking of them, perhaps, as the kernel of a future army of mass struggle …the germ of an idea about an army trained and commanded by him may have begun to sprout.” (L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, p. 191); Hugh Toye stated that Bose’s militarism “impressed the pacifist Congressmen in spite of themselves.” (Hugh Toye, The Springing Tiger, p. 34).
  37. Speech at a military review of the Indian National Army, Singapore, July 5, 1943, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, p. 182. Also quoted in: Hari Hara Das, Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Movement, pp. 278-279. See also Bose’s Order of the Day, August 26, 1943 (the day he officially assumed command of the INA), in Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 196-197.
  38. Zaidi and Zaidi, The Encyclopedia of the Indian National Congress, Volume II, p. 346; A.N. Bose, My Uncle Netaji, p. 154. Both quoted in L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, p. 350. See also: M. Bose, The Lost Hero, p. 120.
  39. For a detailed account of Bose’s Forward Bloc tour of 1939 and 1940, in which he addressed “about a thousand meetings in ten months,” see S.C. Bose, Crossroads (Calcutta: Netaji Research Bureau, 1981), p. 216-226.
  40. M. Bose, The Lost Hero, p. 210-211.
  41. M. Bose, The Lost Hero, p. 211.
  42. S. C. Bose, The Indian Struggle, pp. 114, 141, 229, 304.
  43. S. C. Bose, The Indian Struggle, p. 114. Of Gandhi, Bose also wrote (p. 241): “I traveled with him, for some days, and was able to observe the unprecedented crowds that greeted him everywhere. I wonder if such a spontaneous ovation was ever given to a leader anywhere else.”
  44. S. C. Bose, The Indian Struggle, pp. 48, 68, 70, 73, 179.
  45. Bose constantly condemned any form of compromise, considering it to be a sign of weakness. For example, see his letter to Sarat Bose, April 23, 1921: “I feel, very strongly, as a result of my past experience that compromise is a very unholy thing.” (Netaji: Collected Works, Volume 1, pp. 230-236.)
  46. See: Letter to Hemanta Kumar Sarkar, August 31, 1915. Bose (aged 18) wrote: “I am realizing more and more as time passes that I have a definite mission to fulfil in life and for which I have been born… I must move about with the proud self-consciousness of one imbued with an idea.” (Netaji: Collected Works, Volume 1, p. 166) See also Letter to Sarkar, July 18, 1915, same source, p. 164.
  47. Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, p. 180.
  48. D. K. Roy, The Subhash I Knew, p. 85 ff.
  49. When his birthday was celebrated in 1944, for instance, his devotees in Singapore actually weighed him in gold and jewelry, and gave the wealth as a donation to the Provisional Government of Azad Hind. (M. Bose, The Lost Hero, p. 238) See also H. Toye, The Springing Tiger, pp. 82, 162.
  50. Bose is alleged to have liked this myth, and, according to Shah Nawaz, himself boasted “that no British bomb had been manufactured which could kill or maim a Subhas Chandra Bose.” (D. K. Roy, The Subhash I Knew, p. 95).
  51. M. Sivaram, The Road to Delhi, pp. 123, 134-4. Cited in M. Bose, The Lost Hero, p. 211.
  52. It is worth noting that after Bose’s death, Gandhi, Nehru and other leading Indian politicians, began calling him Netaji. See notes 4 and 5 above. Mihir Bose states that in India today, few call him anything but Netaji, and to call him Subhas Bose is to reveal that one has a low political opinion of the man. M. Bose, The Lost Hero, p. 211.
  53. Proclamation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, October 21, 1943. Reproduced in H. Toye, The Springing Tiger, pp. 112, 113, 115, and in Hari Hara Das, Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Movement (New Delhi: 1983), pp. 367-370.
  54. Many Indians were tortured, imprisoned, and executed, either on Bose’s instructions or with his knowledge. See: H. Toye, The Springing Tiger, pp. 112, 113, 115.
  55. See: M. Bose, The Lost Hero, p. 224.
  56. See: INA Proclamation on Entering India. Reproduced in The Springing Tiger (Appendix II), pp. 208-210, and in, Hari Hara Das, Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Movement (New Delhi: 1983), pp. 371-376.
    Part of this document states: “If any person fails to understand the intentions of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and the Indian National Army, or of our Ally, the Nippon Army, and dares to commit such acts as are itemized hereunder which would hamper the sacred task of emancipating India, he shall be executed or severely punished in accordance with the Criminal Law of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and the Indian National Army or with the Martial Law of the Nippon Army.” These punishable acts include such things as spreading rumors “disturbing and misleading the minds of the inhabitants,” spying, destroying material resources controlled by the Provisional Government, and all forms of rebellion against the Provisional Government or the Japanese Army.
  57. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, for example, the US government — acting according to President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 of February 19, 1942 — forced 110,000 Japanese-Americans into ten camps, erected hastily by the War Relocation Agency, that could well be called concentration camps. During the following three and a half years, the US government also imprisoned 16,000 conscientious objectors, under the Selective Service Act of September 1940. The most severe case was that of Henry Weber, a conscientious objector who was sentenced to hang, but later had that sentence commuted to life imprisonment. (Weber was released at the end of the war, after serving five years.) During the war years, many Communists, socialists, anarchist intellectuals and key members of such societies as the German-American Bund were accused of sedition or espionage (under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1939), and given long prison sentences. US wartime treatment of these prisoners was very bad. Many were interrogated and tortured by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A Detroit tavern keeper named Max Steven, to mention but one, gave sanctuary to a German POW who had escaped from Canada. For this crime he was tortured, tried, and sentenced to hang, but President Roosevelt commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. He served eleven years. See: R.J. Goldstein, Political Repression in Modern America: From 1870 to the Present (Cambridge: Schenkman, 1978); G. Perrett, Days of Sadness, Years of Triumph: The American People, 1939-1945 (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1973).
  58. See: Bose’s speech to the Indian Independence League Conference in Singapore, July 4, 1943, Cited above. He made it clear that “the time to start an armed struggle for freedom has come,” and that all Indians, “at home and those abroad, should gather together with arms under one leader and await the orders for the destruction of the British imperialists.” He then explained why he was that “one leader.” (See the quotation to which note 50 relates).
  59. See also Bose’s speech at a mass meeting in Singapore, July 9, 1943, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 185-188. In this speech, he said: “Indians outside India, particularly Indians in East Asia, are going to organize a fighting force which will be powerful enough to attack the British Army in India. When we do so, a revolution will break out, not only among the civil population but also among the Indian Army which is now standing under the British flag. When the British government is thus attacked from both sides — from inside India and from outside — it will collapse and the Indian people will then regain their liberty.”
  60. See: Presidential address at All-India Forward Bloc Conference, June 18, 1940, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 118-126: “It is not necessary that the Indian revolution should be a bloody one or that it should pass through a period of chaos. On the contrary, it is desirable that it should be as peaceful as possible; and a peaceful transition can be ensured if the people are united are determined to have their freedom… This effort will necessitate the setting up of a machinery which will preserve harmony and goodwill under all circumstances.”
  61. Kitty Kurti, Subhas Chandra Bose As I Knew Him (Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1966), pp. 22.
  62. K. Kurti, Subhas Chandra Bose As I Knew Him (1966), pp. 22, 23, 28.
  63. Presidential address to the All-India Forward Bloc Conference, Nagpur, June 18, 1940, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, p. 124. See also: Subhas Chandra Bose As I Knew Him, p. 29: Kurti quotes Bose stating on June 10, 1933, that the government of a free India would “stand for all-round freedom for the Indian people — that is, for social, economic and political freedom.” It would, he continued, be created “on the basis of the eternal principles of justice, equality and freedom.”
  64. See: Presidential address at the Rangpur Political conference, March 30, 1929, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 49-50; Reply to the address of welcome presented by the Bombay Corporation, January 1938, same source, pp. 70-71; Speech at Shraddhanand Park, Calcutta, May 3, 1939, Same source, pp. 112-115; For industrialization and state ownership of industries, see: Inaugural speech to the All-India National Planning Committee at Bombay. Dec. 17, 1938, Same source, pp. 97-99.
  65. K. Kurti, Subhas Chandra Bose As I Knew Him, p. 29; See also Presidential address at the Karachi conference of the All-India Naujawan Bharat Sabha, March 27, 1931, in Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 62-64.
  66. K. Kurti, Subhas Chandra Bose As I Knew Him, pp. 28, 29. See also letter to Hermanta Kumar Sarkar, September 26, 1915, Netaji: Collected Works, volume 1, pp. 171-172, and his comments in The Indian Struggle, pp. 312-313.
  67. Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 185-188.
  68. Speech of July 4, 1944, in Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 214-215.
  69. See: Presidential address to the Maharashtra Provincial Conference, Poona, May 3, 1928, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 31-40.; Liberty, Dec. 9, 1930, Cited in L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, p. 238.
  70. Speech to the women’s section of the Indian Independence League, Singapore, July 12, 1943, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 189-192.
  71. See: S. K. Bose, ed., A Beacon Across Asia (1973), pp. 182, 219.; H. Toye, The Springing Tiger, pp. 86, 146.; L. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj, pp. 497, 523, 535-36.
  72. See: Bose’s presidential address at the Students' Conference held at Lahore, October 19, 1929, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, pp. 51-59. He stated, inter alia: “You have summoned me from distant Calcutta to come and speak to you …is it because you and I have something in common — sharing the same thoughts and cherishing the same aspirations? …The youth movement of today is characterized by a feeling of restlessness, of impatience with the present order of things, and by an intense desire to usher in a new and better era.”
  73. Presidential address at the Maharashtra Provincial Conference, Poona, May 3, 1928, Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose, p. 36.


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About the author

Andrew Montgomery is the pen name of a doctoral candidate in twentieth century history. Last year he was awarded a Master’s Degree in history with high honors. A research associate of a US government historical research institute, he is currently working on a doctoral dissertation on the deployment of the Luftwaffe in a particular Second World War campaign.

From The Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1980 (Vol. 1, No. 1), page 5.